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Contrasting Vintages at Domaines St.-Préfert and Ferrando

Isabel Ferrando's Châteauneuf domaines remain reference points as her holdings have grown
Photo by: James Molesworth
Liberace would've dug playing in the cellars at St.-Préfert.

Posted: Jul 11, 2014 10:30am ET

Domaine St.-Préfert and Domaine Ferrando, the joint domaines owned by Isabel Ferrando, have become reference points for red and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape since they were founded in 2002 and 2004, respectively. For in-depth background you can reference numerous blog entries, starting with my notes from my most recent visit here in 2012.

Ferrando has continued to expand her holdings, adding parcels every year. She started with 30 acres in 2002 and now has 69 acres of vines. She also built a new winery facility in 2009.

"Things have changed quickly since I started, though," said Ferrando. "A hectare of vines [2.5 acres] was 200,000 euro in 2002. Today it's 400,000 euro per hectare. It's not Bordeaux prices, but it does make it hard to grow anymore. There is really not much good vineyard land for sale in Châteauneuf right now."

The 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape White (bottled in January) is its typical 60/40 blend of Clairette and Roussanne, all barrel-fermented. The wine is creamy and lush, with verbena and melon notes lined with a bitter almond edge. The 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape White Cuvée Spéciale Vieilles Clairettes is still in its lone demi-muid (an oversize barrel) and will be  bottled in magnum format only as usual. It shows racy grapefruit, bitter almond and rose water notes with a hint of quince fleshing out the finish. It's large in scale but has tension for balance and cut and remains one of the AOC's top white wines. 

The 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape blends Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah while delivering fleshy, enticing tobacco, plum cake and fig bread notes. The 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape is denser in feel, with thickly layered fig, Turkish coffee and ganache notes and a lovely mouthfeel.

"2013 is a very fruity, elegant vintage," said Ferrando. "Not a lot of tannins, medium aging, so maybe 10 years. It's a vintage to drink. In comparison, 2012 is a fresh Northern Rhône style vintage. Lots of tannins, but tension, very refined and very pure."

The 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Auguste Favier Réserve (84/15/1 Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah) shows pastis, fig, and blackberry notes, with a lush silky feel overall but a nice twinge of licorice root at the very end. The 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Auguste Favier Réserve (70/15/10/5 Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah) is loaded with fig bread, tobacco, pepper and black currant fruit, with a long, intense, powerful finish.

The 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Collection Charles Giraud (60/40 Grenache and Mourvèdre) should continue its track record of classic quality, with layers of Turkish coffee, anise and blackberry paste and a long, smoldering finish. There is no 2012 Charles Giraud cuvée; despite the vintage's high quality, yields on Mourvèdre and Grenache were so low that Ferrando couldn't make the cuvée to its usual specs. What Mourvèdre there was went to the '12 Auguste Favier.

The 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Colombis is Grenache only as usual, with fruit from vines on sandy soil in the Colombis and Rayas lieux-dits now being blended with clay and sandy clay soil fruit from the Cristia lieu-dit as well. It's always the more hedonistic bottling here, with lush raspberry and blackberry pâté de fruit notes. The 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Colombis shows a bit more spine to match the lush fruit, with extra anise and graphite notes on the finish.

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